Ohio State Football: Dontre Wilson Is College Football's Most Undervalued Player

Ben AxelrodBig Ten Lead WriterAugust 14, 2014

USA Today

Vertical lines are supposedly slimming. But if Dontre Wilson looks bulkier when he takes the field for his sophomore season this fall, it won't necessarily be because he traded in the Ohio State's No. 1 jersey for the more familiar No. 2 in the offseason.

The Buckeyes' most highly-touted freshman a season ago, Wilson was supposed to play the "Percy Harvin role" in Urban Meyer's spread offense, a do-it-all wide receiver-running back hybrid who would be the perfect complement to OSU's already dynamic backfield. Only Wilson's size—he was listed at 5'10", 174 pounds in his freshman campaign—made him more of a novelty, with the DeSoto, Texas, native only accumulating 53 offensive touches and 460 yards in 2013.

That was a far cry from what was expected of Wilson at the start of his college career, and he's well aware. That's why the former Lone Star State star spent the majority of his first college offseason in the weight room, determined to bulk up to a size that will allow him to sustain an entire season.

"I've gained like 23 pounds," Wilson proclaimed. "I feel a lot stronger, a lot more compact."

Wilson's weight isn't all that's changed, however, as he's also now listed as a wide receiver on the Buckeyes roster. That's something that wouldn't have been possible a year ago, thanks to both his size and understanding of the OSU playbook.

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"He couldn't play receiver last year. He didn't know what the hell he was doing," Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman said in the spring. "His ability limited us, and ability doesn't just include running fast and making guys miss. There's a lot that goes into usability in the offense."

Dontre Wilson admittedly wasn't big enough as a true freshman.
Dontre Wilson admittedly wasn't big enough as a true freshman.PAUL VERNON/Associated Press/Associated Press

That no longer appears to be the case, as it was clear in spring practice that the Ohio State staff was making a concerted effort to get the ball into Wilson's hands. That directive has carried over into fall camp, where the sophomore has been the Buckeyes' No. 1 slot receiver—the same position that was formerly occupied by last season's leading receiver, Corey "Philly" Brown.

Only Wilson can provide a dynamic to the OSU offense that Brown couldn't, with the ability to both catch the ball down the field and carry it out of the backfield. That happens to be the same way that Meyer used Harvin during his days at Florida, and is admittedly how Wilson envisioned he'd be used in his freshman season.

"I pretty much thought I was going to come in and be the Percy Harvin role that Coach Meyer wanted me to be," Wilson said. "But I wasn't as comfortable as I was [in high school]."

Also not helping was that every time that No. 1 came onto the field last season for the Buckeyes, he might as well have done so with a spotlight for opposing defenses. Wilson appeared to be snuffed out from the start on a lot of plays that he was in on, with his main presence coming as that of a decoy.

That may have been due to the preseason hype that accompanied Wilson, something that he now admits bothered him at times a year ago. At the first Ohio State media day of his college career, the then-freshman found himself swarmed by the local press, who was looking to learn all that it could about the Buckeyes' latest unknown commodity.

"I knew it was going to be tough and be a grind to get on the level that everybody else was already on," Wilson said of his freshman season. "I just wish that I didn't have all that hype and all that stuff before I got here."

Wearing a new uniform number, Dontre Wilson has had an impressive offseason in Columbus.
Wearing a new uniform number, Dontre Wilson has had an impressive offseason in Columbus.Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Fortunately for Wilson, the hype that hampered him has seemingly disappeared, in favor of more realistic expectations for his sophomore campaign. At this year's media day, the crowd around Wilson was noticeably smaller, which is actually what he'd prefer.

"I just gotta perform," Wilson said. "I gotta stand up to the hype and live up to the hype."

If his new uniform is any indication, that shouldn't be a problem. He may be under the radar right now, but Wilson says he once again feels like the Texas prep product who tallied more than 2,500 yards and 46 touchdowns in his senior season—and brought more attention to Columbus with him than he could admittedly handle

Hence the switch to his high school digit.

"I just felt like I needed to get back to me. It feels like me again," Wilson said. "I had to get back to No. 2."

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.


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